Demon in Me
It all began with a once upon a time in a soulless land. In the dead silence of the night, two hooded people walked together crossing an empty, dim-lighted street and entered the only diner that was still open. The misty smelling diner was half-empty, and most tables were filled with just one hooded man or woman drinking until the sun rises. It was a place to forget, a place to pause, and a place to stop.
The diner was a destination for guests who wished for a rewind.
The two ordered coffee, black, and murmured to the cashier for table number three. The girl behind the counter raised her brows and cocked her head to a table in the left corner near the glass wall. There sat a man in grey hood. The man gave an aura of mystery as he raised his cider to the two, a silent invitation to join him in the midst of the hollow night.
The two made their way to the table and made themselves comfortable. They shrugged off their robes, one black and one maroon, and leaned into the couch. The man who just folded his black robe into a neat pile stared far into the glistening road through the glass wall. He seemed to be rather too focused in his own world.
A few moment of tense silence filled the table.
“Name?” the man in grey robe asked indifferently after a while. His eyes showed coolness that almost came off as empty and emotionless.
“They named me Selfish,” the young woman who had just shrugged off her maroon coat said, “I’m Selfish.”
The other answered curtly, “Individualist.” Then his stare diverted from the window to the asker. “You?”
“They call me Apathetic,” the asker answered as he rolled his shirt to the elbow. Along his arm was a quote that said ‘Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care.’ The man studied the two teenage intently and placed his cider gently on the table. The name the two had gotten from them was proven to be accurate. He could easily identify what made them who they were just by one look. “You will revert to me with that name.”
They both shared an uninterested glance and gave a nod.
“I was assigned with the two of you tonight, and we’ll start from the basic,” Apathetic said. “You two were sent here to discuss what the title you were named with meant, to make the two of you understand how little it means compared to who we really are inside. You can see people around here,” he waved around the room. “they were all just the same as you. They were named a title and this is the place where you can be that person without judgment.”
“Get to the point,” Selfish snapped.
Apathetic was unfazed, unaffected. “This place here, it’s a place for people to choose whether to embrace the person they call us as or change the person accordingly to fit society. I, for one, chose to embrace it for my own goodness.”
He took a gulp of his drink.
“Who’s this they, exactly?” Selfish asked with a frown. “How do you people know who’s called what?”
“What, they didn’t explain that in the e-mail they sent you? No wonder only so little people came these days.”
Selfish raised her eyebrows, clearly saying they didn’t get whatsoever information as to why they were to be there that night.
“It’s a wonder the two of you still thought about coming, considering the lack of information.” He scratched his head and leaned into the couch. “Well, long story short, we found who you are through the forum we created for kids like you. Ring a bell?”
Selfish’s eyes widened and she immediately checked her phone.
“So that forum was created by your people?” Individualist asked, leaning forward in interest.
Apathetic laughed, “My people, yeah, sure, we’ll call them that. But yes, the forum was originally created by Leader for misfits like us.” His eyes shone a shade brighter that showed sincerity for the first time. “You see, he was determined to save us from our own demon. He and his wife took me and five other people here this one night six years ago and convinced us that the name we bear is the reason we’re different in a good way.
“Which part of being apathetic is good?” Individualist asked. His eyes narrowed in manner that showed he was clearly unamused.
“Which part of that is bad?” Apathetic threw back with slight smirk. He drank from his glass and took his time. “I was called Apathetic because I couldn’t care less of other people’s pain. Too much homework and they whine. Too much exams and they gave up completely on life. I refused to be reduced into their level. I chose to go along with whatever was assigned to me a long time ago. Whining won’t make any difference in life.”
Selfish snorted as she slipped her phone back into her pocket. “People must have loved you.”
“If they wanted to get left behind and regret it all at the last minute, that’s their choice. How could I be sympathetic with their bad scores when the reason it happened was because of their own laziness and ignorance?” Apathetic chuckled humorlessly. “I was heartless like that. I didn’t and still don’t have the time to bullshit with their self-made pain. To be completely honest, I don’t even care about the two of you. I’m just here so that I don’t have to be here again for another three months.”
Individualist studied him carefully. He sipped his coffee as silence came upon the table. He lingered for a moment until he finally spoke, “They call me Individualist because I refuse to work in a group of ignorant fools. I don’t ask for help or even feel the need to ask any. I’m fine doing things on my own.”
“I see,” Apathetic cocked his head to the side in interest. “Go on.”
“I don’t feel the need to ask for people to accompany me to the locker or to lunch. I am capable of doing things myself and defend myself. Is that wrong?” he asked, eyes showing emotion for once. It was the same confused look Apathetic once wore when he first came into the diner. “Solidarity, is what they told me. They pushed me hard to be solid, to be united. For a while I grilled that into my head, until I soon decided being solid with people who couldn’t decide for themselves was not worth it.”
Individualist lost his composure and calamity that he walked in with as he told more about himself. His gaze became unfocused in a struggle in accepting his name. He sipped more of his coffee and regained some of his cool. He took a few breaths, and tried to speak again. “Since I was born, I’ve always prefered to be on top on my own. Even if I was to be all alone up there, I’ve always believed there must be other people who shared the same fate as I do.”
Apathetic watched the young man came into his own solution. Ah, how he loved the days when he was assigned with smart people who can figure out for themselves about who they are and what they want to be.
“What’s your priority in life, kid?” Apathetic asked.
“To be on top.”
Silence, then a rumble of laughter filled the bar around table number three. Individualist glared around the table and flushed.
“Isn’t that why we’re all here, cutie?” the cashier girl winked as she leaned into the counter. She swirled a finger in her drink and smirked, “We’re all sent here because we have sick ways up our sleeves to get on top. She rolled her neck to the side, and there it showed a sentence inked on her neck. The sentence read, ‘A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.’
Individualist had to concentrate under the dim light to get every portion of her sentence. He took the words in and guessed, “They called you a Liar?”
The girl snorted, “That would be the jerk in table number sixteen. Read aloud the second clause.”
Selfish beat him to it. “One who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of–Oh, you’re a Deceiver then?”
“Close. They call me Manipulator. I was brought here by Lady five years ago and have been working for her ever since.” With that, Manipulator finished her drink and turned back to her magazine.
Individualist and Selfish both turned back to Apathetic.
“She’s pretty,” Selfish noted.
“Hence the Manipulator. Right, so we’ll go to you, Selfish. What’s up?” Apathetic nodded.
Selfish took a good time thinking over it. She eventually spoke up.
“Right, so you see, I don’t give a damn of what other people think if that means I can get what I need for the best of my future. I do my homework and I leave them behind, I remind teachers if they forgot about an exam, and I sure don’t do people’s notes just for the sake of it,” she rolled her eyes and huffed. “What makes people think they can run away from exams and homeworks, anyway? That’s supposed to be what school’s all about. You’re graded for your success. You can’t just avoid them, you’re supposed to need the scores for your report to apply for university! I don’t understand how people think these days when they clearly don’t give a damn of what education can get them into. And cheating! God, I refuse to share my answers during exams and somehow I’m the biggest selfish bitch. I’m being fair, I’m supposed to get rewarded for the hard work I did compared to the lazies who just couldn’t be motivated to actually do something for their own life once in a while. This frustrates me so much.”
The bar was filled with silence.
Manipulator and Apathetic shared an amused glance.
“What’s even worse is the fact that the girls I hang out with are bunch of morons who care too much for beauties, popularity, and status. It’s all about ‘Ew, what is that thing she’s wearing?’ or ‘Why would he date her, she’s not even pretty’. It’s all bunch of shallow words and bullying juniors and living the mean girls life. I bet every penny I got the reason they keep me around is because they need a last minute back up plan for when their grades go downhill.”
She exhaled a large amount of breath. That felt satisfying.
“Why don’t you hang out with other people then?” Individualist snickered.
His question brought Apathetic and Manipulator’s eyebrows to their hairline. It was indeed the best question to ask. They expected she would say they were their childhood friend, or that she was using them back for something. What they didn’t expect was;
Selfish’s clenched her jaw and looked away to the glass wall. Her sullen expression said it all. She hugged herself, “They accept the demon in me. Not many people do.”
Manipulator was suddenly sitting beside Apathetic and studied Selfish intently.
Feeling the stare she was under, Selfish turned her attention and rudely glared back. “What?”
“What are you going to do with this pain of yours?”
“Well, what choices do I have?” Selfish grumbled.
“You can accept it, that’s the first, or you can choose to throw it.” Judging by the way Apathetic and Manipulator wrinkled their noses in disgust, it was clear that they didn’t choose the second option.
“Is there a third option?” Individualist asked.
“You can be it. Be who you are, like how we’ve come to term with who we are ,” she answered easily.
“That’s big coming from you,” Apathetic snorted.
Manipulator rolled her eyes, “Oh shut up, I’ve always loved who I am.”
Selfish and Individualist shared a look as they kept on arguing. The misty atmosphere at the diner has lifted as the sun started to rise. It was a good time to think about what they had said. Be who they are, could they do it? Who would want to live different, shone out from the world? What advantages could they bring to the world full of hate with their inner demon? There must be not much they could do by being who they are. Look at the people around the diner. They didn’t seem like the happiest people on earth. Intelligent individuals and successful, maybe, but they seemed to be too in pain. Besides, why do they need to be just one person? There must be other traits they can be.
“I don’t know if I could embrace the demon in me,” said Selfish softly, interrupting the two bickering adults.
That took the whole table’s attention.
Manipulator’s eyes narrowed into dangerous slits, “What, because you don’t have the guts to not be accepted by society?”
“Easy for you to say,” Selfish shot back, “You’re practically having fun rotting yourself up in here.”
“Excuse you, kid, you don’t know who I am behind the name I bear with pride,” Manipulator tone turned ice cold.
“You said it yourself, I get to choose who I want to be. This is my life.”
Manipulator scoffed, “Yes, and from they way I look at it, you’re choosing to be the shallow bitches you said you hate so much. Guess what, you’re no different than the rest of them. You’re no grander or better, you’re just this coward who’s too scared to face the truth.”
“That is not fair! I am in highschool, these things matter, if I can’t be on top, it’s a done in!”
“Psh, what a suckass dream,” Manipulator bluntly said with venom in her voice. “To be on top of the foodchain? Here I thought you were aiming for success in life. I’ll say it again. Don’t go act like you’re better. You’re not.”
Tense filled the table.
“You’re not being fair,” Selfish’s voice broke. “You’re different. Even they’re different!” She pointed at Apathetic and Individualist. “I’m Selfish. Straight out that. It’s not something I can bear with pride.”
Apathetic sat back, entertained. This made the job worth it sometimes.
“Stop going around thinking our life is any easier with the choice we made.” Manipulator’s look was hard, but it lost the hostile glint she had earlier.
Selfish shook her head. “And yet you still chose it. I don’t understand you.”
“I do,” Individualist said for the first time since the fight.
“Yeah?” Apathetic asked.
“You refuse to lose the battle. You’re brave enough to live that way.”
Apathetic nodded, feeling a surge of pride toward the new kid.
“It’s who we are. We don’t let the society define us,” Manipulator said in a thin, strained voice. “We’re proud. It’s not supposed to be something to be afraid of. Our demon makes us us, maybe not always in a good way, but the thought of adapting to this society where it’s all about shallow dreams disgust us.”
It was the truth. That was what Leader did all those years ago. He reminded people just how precious those traits were and made sure they live on with strong the principle they inked into themselves.
“I know what I want for my tattoo,” Individualist seemed excited for the first time of the night. “I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. Is that fitting?”
Apathetic nodded in an approval, and Individualist broke into a half smile.
“You?” Individualist turned to Selfish.
Selfish clenched her mouth shut. She won’t be apart of this. She couldn’t. Oh, she could already imagine the words her friends would throw her way if she told them about this.
“It’s alright, kid,” Apathetic nodded when she gave no response. “There are many people who left the diner to just blend in with society, and if they’re happy that way, then who’re we to judge?”
Manipulator turned to Apathetic with a look that showed she was clearly against it. She scoffed and shook her head.
“See yourself out, I’m outta here.” She gathered all the empty glasses and made her way to the counter. She slammed the glasses and the cups into the sink and turned on the tap all the way to fill in the whole sink.
Selfish took her robe and and stood. She can do this, she can. Her life was fine before this, she can keep being the person she was. The more she convinced herself, the more she felt her heart crack into pieces.
“At least give me a time to think about it,” she whispered.
The sound of the running tap stopped.
“A week. If you’re not here by then, I pray for the best of your future.” Apathetic stood as well.
Selfish nodded. “What do you think your Leader would say?”
“Nothing, he’ll let you leave. He knows not to stop people whose heart are not strong enough to face the demon they drag.”
Selfish gave a dry chuckle. Yeah, that sounded just about right. She shook his hand, waved to Individualist, and sought herself out.
The air was misty once again as she walked on her own along the empty street of a soulless land. It was a place to forget, a place to pause, and a place to stop. With heavy heart, she turned around and watched the quiet interactions going on inside a diner just across the street.
The diner was a destination for guests who wished for a rewind.